Friday, August 31, 2012

Summer Shower

"Mom, it's sprinkling except not under this tree. Wait - it is sprinkling under here. Now it's raining, like real rain. Sort of hard rain. When we get home can I play Angry Birds Rio? Or I could go in the puddle instead. Do you think the big puddle is in front of our house yet? Why is it raining? I knew it was going to rain, except I didn't think it was going to be today but I knew it would rain sometime. You're getting wet on your hair. I heard a thunder! It was a thunder! I'm getting super wet! Run!"

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Mayor of Afton Place

Our house is at the end of a dead end street. Afton Place is a narrow, private road without sidewalks. On the day we moved in, the moving truck backed up slowly, barely fitting between the parked cars. Jeff moved our Volvo out of the driveway to make room and pulled in front of a house across the street. He was barely out of the car when an elderly woman on crutches was yelling from the porch.

“You gotta move your car. That’s where my husband parks.”

“Oh, Hi. I’m Jeff, nice to meet you. We just moved in across the street and down and I had to move the car so that the truck could fit in.” She stared at him, saying nothing.

“Okay, then I guess I’ll move it up to the cross street?”

She eyed him another moment and turned and went back inside.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

That evening, Jeff was unloading boxes from the station wagon. A barrel-chested man in blue denim coveralls and a broad brimmed hat walked down the street and introduced himself to Jeff.

“Martin Johnson. Heard you met the wife.”

“I sort of did, yeah.”

“People on Afton Place are particular about their parking spots; Private road, and all that. I suppose no one told you about the drainage problem here at your end of the street?”


Mr. Johnson launched into a detailed history of the faulty drainage and run off system occurring in front of our driveway dating back to his wife’s arrival on Afton Place in 1967. The term “roving easement” was used many times. Jeff tried to follow along as he continued to unload the boxes.

“We’re just renters here, Mr. Johnson.”

“You should tell the landlord to get that pump going again or you’ll be looking at four feet of standing water in front of your house come the rains.”

For awhile our interaction with the Johnsons was limited to long stares from Mrs. Johnson as she stood on their porch with her crutches and an occasional monologue from Mr. Johnson about the easement and drainage problem to Jeff or me if we were in the front yard.

Christmas morning, we opened the front door to find a plate of cookies and loaves of sweet breads from some of the neighbors including a bag with hot chocolate and cookies in it from the Johnsons. In the afternoon we went down the block, from house to house, thanking people and wishing them a merry Christmas.

“That’s all from the wife,” said Mr. Johnson. “She’s crazy about the holidays.” She didn’t come to the door.

We had monthly potlucks and invited friends, relatives, and everyone on our street. Mr. Johnson was a regular. He always arrived first, about twenty minutes before the party began. I would put him to work, stacking napkins or emptying salad greens into a bowl. We would hang out and talk. I got to hear the low down on all the neighbors. He told me about his career in electrical engineering. I learned that his mother-in-law was born the year the titanic sank, and there was always something about the easement. He held court at our back patio table, telling guests the history of the street and drinking hot cups of sugared coffee. Mrs. Johnson never came over due to her “bad knees.”

One evening, it started raining hard. Mr. Johnson called and advised us to move our cars up the street for the night.”

“You can pull in front of Delores’ place. If you keep those cars in the driveway, they’ll flood when you pull into the street. The only way out will be by pontoon.”

When our neighbor Delores was in the hospital, Mr. Johnson took care of her five cats, all female. He explained that the cats ruled her house and were “living the life of Riley,” eating whole rotisserie chickens that Delores bought just for them. He complained that now he was taking care of seven ladies including the cats and his mother and mother-in-law. I often saw him sitting on the bench on his front porch, drinking coffee with one of the cats in his lap.

After Delores passed away, Mr. Johnson informed me that I would be taking one of her cats. I met him at Delores’ cluttered house and met Violet, that cat he had picked out for us.

“She’s an inside cat, so she should be easy to keep track of,” he said.

I had met most of Delores’ cats and I was sure we were getting the best one. I think Mr. Johnson thought so too.

Last year, Mr. Johnson started losing weight and complained of pain in his stomach. A few months later he was diagnosed with colon cancer. I drove him to his chemo appointments in the afternoons. Each time I waited in the driveway for him to come out the back door, I saw him kiss Mrs. Johnson goodbye.

“I’m getting so skinny, it hurts my bony ass just to sit down.”

“I wish I could give you some of mine, I have extra,” I said.

“It looks good on you, like that Pippy Middleton gal in England.”

As the treatment progressed and he grew weaker, we brought a wheel chair with us to the appointments. Mr. Johnson had a blue handicap placard to hang from the rearview mirror ensuring us the best parking. He referred to it as “the handi-crap.” After we left the medical building we headed straight to Soup Plantation. We cruised the steam tables and he picked out his lunch as we rolled through. We drank a lot of coffee. He brought chocolate chip cookies home for Mrs. Johnson. He always had a coupon.

Over time, Mr. Johnson’s condition worsened.  One afternoon, we had plans to go to his internist. Mrs. Johnson called me to let me know that he wasn’t doing well but still wanted to go to his appointment. It had been a week since I’d seen him and as Mrs. Johnson ushered me into their bedroom, I wasn’t prepared for his sudden change in appearance. The big man looked small against the pillows he was propped up on, the life seemed to have been erased from his features. His breathing was shallow.

“Let’s go,” he whispered.

Mrs. Johnson pulled me aside.

“His pain is real bad. I found a loaded gun he put on his bed stand. You tell the doctor that.”

I held his hand as we drove to the doctor’s office, occasionally steadying him as he slid around in his seat. His eyes stayed closed. I told him that I was going to pull into the handicap space because it was closest, even though we had forgotten the placard.

“Not without the handi-crap,” he whispered. “Ticket’s three-fifty.”

I found a space near the entrance and left him in the car with the engine running and the air conditioning cranked up. I ran up the stairs to the office and told the receptionist that I needed a nurse to help with a transfer and that we were in a hurry and would need to be put in a room right away.

The nurse took Mr. Johnson’s vitals. The doctor came in and scanned his chart. We stepped into the hall.

“You’re his daughter?” the doctor asked.

“No, I’m his friend.”

“His blood pressure is so low that it’s not registering.”

I told him about Mr. Johnson’s rapid decline in the past week. I told him about the gun.

“It says on his chart that he has refused hospice care at his home. I would recommend it at this point so that he will have someone there to help manage the pain. See if you can get him to agree to it. Then take him back home and I will have the hospice nurse and the social worker meet you at the house.”

When we got back to the Johnson’s driveway, it was well over 90° outside. Mr. Johnson appeared to be unconscious. The hospice nurse hadn’t arrived yet. The station wagon’s fourteen-year old air conditioning system was failing and it was too hot to leave him in the car. I would be on my own to get him out of his seat and into the wheelchair.

I pulled his feet out onto the gravel. I placed his arms around my neck and heaved him awkwardly into the chair. He was balanced precariously at the seat’s edge. I stood behind the chair, one arm wrapped around his waist and pulled. He didn’t move. He was slipping towards the ground and he was taking me with him. I prayed out loud.

“Dear God, please, oh please Amen and everything please.”

Without opening his eyes, Mr. Johnson then stood up and shifted himself into the back of the seat.

“Thank you,” I prayed again. I stopped and wiped tears from my eyes.

I wheeled him into the house. The nurse arrived soon after and we moved him into the bed.

“Mr. Johnson, Anne is here. She’s a nurse and she’s going to help you with the pain. Don’t give her any problems.” I kissed him on the forehead and went out to meet the social worker.

Mr. Johnson died later that night. A few weeks later, Mrs. Johnson gave me his coffeemaker.

Last Sunday was the one-year anniversary of Mr. Johnson’s death. Jeff and Bob and Mrs. Johnson and I made the trip out to the cemetery for a visit. We didn’t bring flowers since, as Mrs. Johnson put it, “Martin wasn’t a flowery person.” We went out for lunch afterwards. I drank a lot of coffee.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The State of the Rosenbergs

1. Kindergarten is still treating Bob right.  His teacher is "cool because she plays Angry Birds at home," which is exactly what I was looking for when we uprooted our lives to move specifically into this school district. Yay.

2. Teddy is fabulous. He is a sweet dog with an apparently insatiable appetite for throw pillows.

3. Little Violet has had a rough time, as kitty weeks go. She gets dehydrated easily and has lost some more weight. There's a sway (different than a swag) to her walk but she still loves sitting in laps and getting brushed so on we go.

4. Daisy is loving having another dog in the house. She is building up a little more stamina with the constant dog playing that Teddy is into. She's looking more like herself and less like she's been at a rave for the weekend.

5. Mr. Rosenberg had a delightful time at his twenty year high school reunion in East Lansing, a couple of weeks ago. His experience is making me look forward even more to my own thirty year reunion coming up in October. The main difference as far as I can tell is that I'm already starting to think about what I might wear to my event, while Jeff just kept on what he happened to wear on the plane to his.

6. I am still at a bit of a loss with my new found, empty three and a half hours in the middle of every business day. I'm actually starting to check off some of the things I put on a to-do list back in June and it's freaking me out a little. Please expect my Pinterest pinning to increase exponentially as I acclimate to this free time.

Good talk.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Thinking Cap

"Mom? What's that look on your face?"

"I'm trying to remember what I was just thinking about."

"Is it about Star Wars?"


"Is it about Ninjago?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Then it must be about lady stuff."

Monday, August 27, 2012

How To Be a Roadie by Bob Rosenberg

When I was little and I went to my dad's music shows, I was just a baby size person still so I couldn't help anyone. I just did sleeping mostly and hung around and did baby things. That's different now.

If you are old like me, you can be a roadie. Roadie is a name for music show rock band helper guy. That is you. Now when you're grown up and six-years old, when you go to a music show you get to say things like, "I'm with the band." Maybe you will get a wrist band or an ink stamp on your hand. When you go to a show and your mom asks if you want to get an ice cream at the ice cream truck that's parked by the show you will have to say, "No, Mom. I have to help dad first." This is because you are a roadie and your job is to move band things around like guitars and suitcases that have lots of stickers on them.

When you are being a roadie you can see the band play really up close like from the front or maybe the side of the stage. The stage is the big part that your mom wants you to not fall off of.

When the band is all done you can move stuff back off the stage and the sound guy will maybe call you "Bro" or something like that. Then you should go to each one of the band musicians and tell them that they sounded great because that's the polite thing to do plus they even did sound great. They might high five you or something. That will be cool because you are a roadie, a super cool roadie.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Smacksy Sunday Links

Two of my friends reminded me why I don't camp. Here. And here.

If you landed on Mars, it would look like this.

This fiery red panda cub is ridiculous with the cute.

Happy Sunday.

Friday, August 24, 2012

He Brought This Home

Bob sailed through the first day of kindergarten. School was "so fun," his teachers "super nice." I was just fine and held it together quite nicely until I read the sheet he brought home. I was cool and then I got to the "apple of your eye" line and I fell apart just a little. Sure, the rhyme's a little wonky but really, I didn't stand a chance.

There are many apples in the world,
This one's special - here's why:
'Cause this was colored just today
By the "apple of your eye."
So keep this in a special place;
It will help you to recall I trust
My first day in Kindergarten,
The twenty-third day of August.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ready, Steady

 "Tell me how you're feeling about the first day of school, Bob. How are you with it?"

"I'm good. I think I'm good."

"I'm glad."

"I don't know exactly what they'll do there but I'm sensing I'll have fun."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Signs of Life

“Remember your old apartment on Sycamore?” my friend Penny asked.


“When we used to come there all the time for the book club, I always noticed how beautiful the street was.”

“It’s a great street,” I said.

“And you with your black pants and Chinese slippers and your cat. Your place always looked so perfect inside and you always looked so… lonely.”

I think of this conversation as I’m tripping over the three-foot tall Batcave blocking the door to my closet. A dog is sleeping on top of the clean laundry that is heaped, unfolded in the big chair. Dishes are piled high in the drainer and the sink and on the counter. My mother refers to these messes as “signs of life.”

My home is filled with these “signs.” When the chaos and clutter and sticky floors feel overwhelming, when it’s me versus the mess, and the mess is winning, I remember that I have traded my color-coded closet for this sweet, chaotic life. These are the days and people and animals I choose and I am grateful. I'm not lonely anymore.

And no I don’t know what that is smeared on your pillow and no, I will not smell it, but I do adore you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Orienting Me

"Mom, which day is the first day of school?"

"It's on Thursday but the first day is an orientation so it's only an hour and a half and I'll be there with you the whole time."

"Why will you be there? I'm not scared, Mom."

"I am, a little."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ridiculous Fads I Have Followed In An Unsuccessful Effort to Be Cool

1989 Was a Dangerous Year

There was that time I...

Got a Dorothy Hamill haircut. People thought I was a boy.

Carried around a cigarette because I thought it made me look sophisticated. Klassy.

Sported the Brooke Shields eyebrows. The effect was less Brooke, more Frida Kahlo.

Bought into the bra top fad. I’m a 32-A, so not so much.

Permed my waist length wavy hair. Barely fit in the car.

Safety-pinned extra shoulder pads to the inside of my shoulder pads. You heard me.

Pierced my belly button. It never healed: pus is pretty.

Drove a convertible Jeep for three years. Nothing awesome about speeding down the freeway with a mouth full of flying hair while you’re trying to keep your giant dog from jumping out of the car.

Wore a Blossom hat for an entire season. Fetching.

Invested $8.00 in self tanning lotion. Could have achieved same effect with three hours and an orange highlight marker.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Smacksy Sunday Links

Have you seen Jerry Seinfeld's latest project Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee? I am loving all of them but the Alec Baldwin one is my favorite so far.

We should all have doctors that care this way

And one minute and fifty-seven seconds of a blind dog playing fetch. Sweetest.

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

Getting Out the Door

“Bob, we’ve got to leave. We're running late. Please get your shoes on.”

“Mom, Venomari are the Serpentine guys from Ninjago…”

“Shoes, please.”

“…one of the Venomari is named Spitta and…”

“Both shoes.”

"…one of the leaders is the leader of the Constrictai guys…”

“Go to the front door please.”

“…and there’s a short version of this guy and a tall version…”


“…and a tall version of another guy and…”

“Please get in the car, Bob.”

“…there’s a new green Ninja that only comes in one set.”

“Are you buckled up?”

“Yeah. Mom. But that’s really all I know about the Venomari.”

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back to School

I have friends who have cried on their kid’s first day of pre-school. I’ve heard of teachers that hand out individual tissue packs for the parents to catch the tears on the big day. I didn’t cry on the first day of school. I cried on the last day.

Before Bob started his first full year at a sweet co-op, we enrolled him in a fancy pants pre-school for a short summer session to work out a few tiny separation anxiety issues. The school is beautiful; a small compound that resembles a Craftsman neighborhood. The orientation video had me welling up during the montage of photos of happy multi-cultural children basking in the amazing student/teacher ratio, all set to Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World. The bill for six weeks at that shining school had me crying even more. We never harbored any fantasies that we would send him there for any longer than a month and a half only because in order to afford a full term we would have to move into a van.

The teacher in charge of Bob’s class was a tall African-American man named Mr. Eric. I referred to Mr. Eric as the tantrum-tamer. He was a quiet guy with an amazing ability to calm a crying child simply by scooping them up into his arms.  He guided the children seamlessly through art and water-play. He taught them table manners and sang A Ram Sam Sam at circle time. Mr. Eric had two lovely assistant teachers who helped with the home-made clay and free-play with the endless supply of age-appropriate wooden toys.

Bob loved it. I loved it more. I had the suspicion that if we could just drop our son off at three-years of age and pick him up fifteen years later, these wise and gentle folk would do a much better job of raising him than we ever could. On the last day of school, I surprised myself and cried. I cried a big hiccupy, snot-string cry. It was our introduction to Bob's school years and it had ended. We moved on to other swell schools and other wonderful teachers and I've held it together. So far.

Next week, Bob starts kindergarten. After a long-ish summer of all Bob, all the time, I am looking forward to a little three hour and twenty-five minute break everyday. Of course, I will miss him. This year school feels like it’s starting too soon and at the same time not soon enough. I don’t anticipate crying though, but I never do.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Midnight Snack

Apparently Teddy had a craving for decorative throw pillows and fiberfill some time between midnight and 4:00AM. Now that we are aware of what he likes, we will be giving him a Crate and Barrel gift card for his birthday.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the check engine light always on in your station wagon?
I am an adrenaline junkie who lives on the edge. Also I'm cheap and I don't want to know.

How do you remember all of those things that Bob says?

I only have to remember what he says long enough to write it down. After that, it’s gone from my small brain. I must leave room for Jeff’s cell number and inexplicably, the lyrics to Going Up the Country by Canned Heat.

What does “Smacksy” mean?
I addressed this timeless question here.

How many girlfriends does Bob have now?
Three. And they are all beautiful little Mensa members whom I adore.

How’s Vi doing?

She’s had a couple of what the vet has referred to as “brain events” this summer. They’ve left her a little wobbly on her feet and a little tired. However, she still enjoys yelling at us and sitting on laps so every day with her is a good day.

Are you still trying to be a (fruits and vegetables only) vegan because of your cholesterol?
Sort of. I am what we are calling a “Vegan-at-Home.” We eat out once a week or so and when we do I might enjoy some bread or cheese. Or a nice piece of fish. Or a short stack.

When is Mr. Rosenberg’s new album coming out?

Sept 25 and it is divine. You can find more information and links to two pre-release songs here.

Is Bob still into Star Wars?
Yes, oh my, yes. Add to this his affection for Annoying Orange and Angry Birds and it’s like we actually live inside an iPad.

Are you really not going to train, like, at all for the Avon Walk?

After receiving some gentle prodding from my pal Cheryl and the delightful Dr. Manning, I have decided that I will buy a couple of pairs of walking shoes and break them in by walking around some. On the big weekend, I will also have cab fare and the best of intentions.

School starts next week. What will you do with those three free hours that Bob is in kindergarten every day?
You’re looking at it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

His Song

"Mom, can you please turn on the radio to see if my song is on?"

"Which song are you looking for?"

"You know, the one that goes, 'Da da da da da I've got to move my jacket...'"

"I think you mean, 'Da da da da da I've got the moves like Jagger...'"

"Like what? Mom, that doesn't even make sense."


I'm linked up here at Miss Elaine-ous today too because I get around. Ask anyone.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Smacksy Sunday Links

 You may be familiar with brilliant writer David Rakoff who we lost this week to cancer.  Here he is reading one of his funny and moving pieces.

This sweet mama dog rescued her puppies from a burning house.

I finally got it together and created a Smacksy fan page on Face Book. You can go  here to "Like" it if you are so inclined.

And in case you somehow managed to miss it, I am taking a long walk next month...

Happy Sunday.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Now That's Messy

"Mom, my room is so messy I can't even find my invisible spy watch."

"That's really messy."

"Get it? It's invisible? And I can't even find it?"

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Take a Walk

I’m not what you’d call an exerciser. In school when it was time for P.E. I always had lady cramps. I don’t have a gym membership. I can’t swim and I don’t run unless the dog gets out. I have one pair of sweats. They're maternity sweats. My kid is six.

I’m not completely inactive. I do walk my kid to school everyday unless it’s raining or it’s too hot or we’re running late. I do pilates once a week-ish with my friend Kim who is an excellent trainer. In between the pilates we drink coffee and gossip about ourselves and it makes the pain less noticeable. That’s it. That’s my whole athletic deal. That is why it’s alarming to most people who know me, that I have signed on to do the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Santa Barbara next month. The walk is 39.9 miles over two days.

I’ll wait here for you while that sinks in a little.

Me. Two days. About 40 miles.

Some years ago my friend Wayne Federman ran the New York Marathon. He didn’t train. At all. Wayne just laced up his Converse low tops and hit the road. He’s quirky like that. Last week my friend Karen asked if I might consider training a little bit for the walk or if I’m going to Federman it.

Here's my plan: I will purchase cute new walking shoes on the internet. I will also invest in a couple of bottles of sunscreen and a palette of Ibuprofin for the big weekend. What’s the worst that could happen? Fine. I'm totally Federman-ing it.

In the meantime, I could use some help reaching my donation goal. If you can’t afford to donate, maybe you can help by keeping a good thought for me that weekend. (9/22-23) Please send out positive vibes that will keep me out of the First Aid tent and keep photos of me wearing a visor off of the internet.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Consumer

"Mom, you know when you pack me a lunch with a turkey and cheese sandwich in it, the cheese gets all bendy?"


"Did you know they have this special kind of lunchbox that has a cooling technology that acts as like a mini-fridge and keeps all of the snacks cool?"

"Sounds like someone's been watching commercials again."

"Please, Mom? Can we get one? I don't like floppy cheese."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Little Gramps, Back Home

"Mom, it would be fun to live in New York."

"Why do you think so?"

"Because then I could hang out with Uncle Dave and Elliot and Damian."

"It's good that you like Daddy's friends but at home you have friends your own age too."

"Yeah, but they're all kids."

Monday, August 6, 2012

At the Airport

"Dad? Before we get on the plane, I'm gonna need another drink."

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Smacksy Sunday Links

I love the Olympics and the divers are spectacular.

If only my family was this efficient at sorting Legos.

The cuteness of this is intense.

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012


"Mom? Since I stayed up so late last night, like the latest ever, but then I got up at 5:30 in the morning but then now it's three hours later here in New York City and last night I stayed up super late, like almost 11:00 in the night-time and then I got up and it was early but the sun was up already but back home it was dark, should I be really sleepy now or not because I'm not that tired. I'm really not."

Thursday, August 2, 2012


"Mom? Do they have any kind of food in New York City that we can't get at home?"

"Probably. You can get anything you want in New York City."

"Even sushi?"

"Yeah, but that's pretty great in California too."

"I bet it's super great in Japan because that's where they bake all the sushi."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Used Up

"Bob, you had excellent behavior today."

"Thanks. I used all the bad behavior up already."

"What do you mean?"

"Mom, don't you remember Sunday?"